The broad bean is one
of the most ancient and also one of the easiest
vegetables in cultivation. From each seed about
three or four square sectioned stems appear, the
standard varieties growing about 4ft (120cm) tall
and the dwarfs’ 12-18in (30-45cm). The fragrant
white-and-black flowers are followed by leathery
pods, short and broad in some varieties –
long and narrow in others. Within these pods are
the broad beans – round or kidney-shaped,
white or green depending on the variety chosen.
Picking can begin as early as the end of May if
you have pampered the crop, but even the maincrop
sown in the ordinary way in early April will be
ready in July – the first of the garden
beans to grace your table. Yet the scientists
tell us that it is not really a bean at all –
it is closely related to a plant grown as cattle
Points to watch for: Discard all seeds which bear
small, round holes.
Expected germination time: 7-14 days
Approximate number per ounce: 15
Amount required for a 10ft double row: 2oz (56g)
Expected yield from a 10ft double row: 20lb (10kg)
Life expectancy of stored seed: 2 years.
Approximate time between autumn sowing and picking:
Approximate time between spring sowing and picking:
Ease of cultivation: Easy
· The ideal soil is rich and free-draining,
but nearly every soil will produce an adequate
crop, provided it is neither very acid nor waterlogged.
Lime, if necessary, in winter.
· Pick a reasonably sunny spot which did
not grow beans last year. Dig in autumn if the
crop is to be sown in spring – add compost
or well-rotted manure if the ground was not enriched
for the previous crop. Apply a general-purpose
fertilizer about 1 week before sowing.
Plant 8in (20cm) apart in double rows, with 24in
(60cm) between each set of rows. Plant 2in (5cm)
deep. Sow a few extra seeds at the end of the
rows. Use as transplants to fill gaps.
· There are several ways of growing a crop
which will be ready for picking in June. November
sowing (Aquadulce or The Sutton) will provide
beans in early June, but there can be serious
losses in a severe winter. Only attempt autumn
sowing if your plot is sheltered, free-draining
and located in a mild area. It is a better plan
to sow under cloches in February.
· Maincrop plantings begin in March and
then at monthly intervals until the end of May
to provide beans throughout the summer.
Sowing time: Usually March and April; less usually
February to May – Under cloches or cold
frame if beginning of February.
Picking time: Last week in June to first week
in September; can extend from last week in May
Looking after the crop
· Regular hoeing will probably be necessary
to keep down weeds during the early stage of the
crop’s life, but watering should not be
necessary before the flowers appear. If the weather
turns dry when the pods are swelling it will be
necessary to water copiously.
· Some form of support will probably be
necessary for tall-growing varieties. Place a
stout stake at each corner of the double row and
then string between the posts at 12in (30cm) intervals.
· Pinch off the top 3in (7cm) of stem as
soon as the first beans start to form. This will
ensure an earlier harvest and also provide some
degree of blackfly control. This serious pest
must be kept down, so spray with Long-last if
· After cropping has finished, dig the
plants into the soil to provide valuable green
· When growing broad beans for the kitchen,
remember that you are not trying to win a prize
at the local show. Leaving the pods to reach their
maximum size will provide an overwhelming flush
of large and tough beans.
· Begin picking when the first pods are
2-3in (5-7cm) long – cook them whole.
· The time to pick beans for shelling is
when the beans have begun to show through the
pod but before the scar on each shelled bean has
become discoloured – it should still be
white or green.
· Remove each pod from the plant by applying
a sharp downward twist.
The long, narrow pods hanging downwards, reaching
15in (37cm) or more in length. There are 8-10
kidney-shaped beans within each pod – both
green and white varieties are available. This
is the best group for hardiness, early cropping,
exhibiting and top yields.
Aquadulce (white): The broad bean which is the
popular choice for autumn sowing. Tall, prolific,
very hardy – an excellent bean for freezing.
Imperial Green Longpod (green): This tall variety
has few rivals for maximum yields and extra-long
pods. It is a well-established favourite, but
Relon may challenge its position.
Relon (green): A giant amongst broad beans –
pod lengths over 20in (50cm) with 10 beans per
pod are claimed. Good for freezing – even
better for the show bench.
Imperial White Longpod (white): According to some
experts this old variety beats all others in yield
and show-winning ability, but Hylon has appeared
as a rival.
Hylon (white): One of the newer varieties which
has staked a claim as the longest-podded broad
Bunyard’s Exhibition (white): Not the biggest
nor longest nor most delicious. Just a completely
reliable old favourite – good yields, good
flavour, good for freezing.
Masterpiece Longpod (green): An early cropper
with green beans and a fine flavour – highly
recommended for freezing.
Express (greenish white): One of the fastest maturing
of all broad beans – choose it if you intend
to sow in early spring. Has earned a high reputation
as a heavy cropper.
Sussex Wonder Longpod (white): Early and prolific,
but its main claim to fame is the broadness of
Red Epicure (reddish brown): Quite different to
any other variety – the red beans turn yellow
when cooked. The flavour is distinctive.
The pods are shorter and broader than those of
the main group – the Longpods. There are
4-7 round beans within each pod – both green
and white varieties are available. This is the
best group for flavour. They are not suitable
for autumn sowing and they take longer to mature
Green Windsor (green): A heavy cropping variety
renowned for its flavour. It has given rise to
a host of descendants, all claiming to be a little
better – Imperial Green Windsor, Unrivalled
and so on.
White Windsor (white): The white-seeded counterpart
to Green Windsor. Another old favourite with longer-named
modern relatives – Broad White Windsor,
Giant White Windsor, Imperial White Windsor, etc.
The dwarf, freely-branching bushes grow about
12-18in (30-45cm) high, making them the ideal
choice where tall growth is not required or the
site is exposed. These are the broad beans to
pick for growing under cloches.
The Sutton (white): The most popular of the Dwarf
varieties – much praise has been heaped
on its small shoulders. ‘Ideal for small
gardens’ is the usual phrase.
Bonny Lad (white): Not much to choose between
this variety and The Sutton, but it does grow
rather taller (15-18in (37-45cm) compared to 12in
(30cm)) and the beans are white-eyed.
See runner beans